An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom

Be careful what you wish for, Texas Board of Education and Asheville, North Carolina city council:

Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on the supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.

Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

And though we well know this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with the powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable, would be of no effect in law, yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

Many people today worry about religion influencing government but Thomas Jefferson was aware of the dangers of the reverse as well.

Jefferson asked that his penning of this act, which was written in 1777 and adopted in 1786, be among the three accomplishments designated on his grave marker. The other two include his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and his founding of the University of Virginia. That request speaks of a time when men felt greater satisfaction in their writings and their actions than in what public office they held.

Into the Field

Connecticut archaeologists are moving from archival research to excavation in an effort to delineate the boundaries of the battle of Pequot Hill and other sites:

McBride and his team of researchers are working with a grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, which seeks to document and preserve battlefields from early American history. They are also using funding from the tribe, which is hoping to use the endeavor as an opportunity to learn about colonial and Native American life at the time of the Pequot War, which lasted from 1636 to 1638.

The Pequots’ use of their Foxwoods revenue to embrace archaeology is admirable — unlike certain tribes and certain governments who fight tooth and claw to obscure the story of mankind in America.

The War of Southern Aggression

The following passage was written by a Confederate soldier who, on 6 April 1862, was captured at the Battle of Shiloh and eventually incarcerated at Camp Douglas. He describes the events immediately following his seizure by Union soldiers:

On the way, my guards and I had a discussion about our respective causes, and, though I could not admit it, there was much reason in what they said, and I marvelled that they could put their case so well. For, until now, I was under the impression that they were robbers who only sought to desolate the South, and steal the slaves; but, according to them, had we not been so impatient and flown to arms, the influence of Abe Lincoln and his fellow-abolitionists would not have affected the Southerns pecuniarily; for it might have been possible for Congress to compensate slave-owners, that is, by buying up all slaves, and afterwards setting them free. But when the Southerners, who were not averse to selling their slaves in the open market, refused to consider anything relating to them, and began to seize upon government property, forts, arsenals, and war-ships, and to set about establishing a separate system in the country, then the North resolved that this should not be, and that was the true reason for the war.

From The Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1909.

Blackbeard Artifacts Displayed

Reporters were given a gander at some of the artifacts raised from Blackbeard’s ship:

David Moore, nautical archaeologist with the N.C. Maritime Museum, said all of the artifacts date to the early 18th century, the correct time for the shipwreck, which was in November 1718.  Two artifacts have dates inscribed, a bell from 1705 and a cannon from 1713.  There are four anchors of the correct vintage at the site, and about a quarter million lead shot have been recovered.  He said other ships would not necessarily be so heavily armed, and that this is likely leftover armament from a pirate ship.

The article goes on to speculate that Queen Anne’s Revenge could be to North Carolina tourism what the HL Hunley is to South Carolina tourism. But judging from this year’s field report, that may be some time coming since funding for major recovery is not apparent:

Nearly two feet of sand has been deposited in most places since the lowest point recorded in 2005 and is at levels not seen since the shipwreck’s discovery in 1996. With no funding to continue full recovery operations, this is a good development. When sand covers artifacts it is generally conducive to artifact preservation because it puts them in an anaerobic environment and buffers impacts from currents and critters.

Anchor Update

Back in October, members of The Queen Anne’s Revenge Shipwreck Project raised a grapnel (seen in the foreground to the right) from the wreck of Blackbeard’s ship. I dropped an e-mail to the Project asking if data from an experiment measuring iron corrosion on another anchor influenced the decision to raise the grapnel now.

Wendy Welsh, QAR Conservator, kindly responded:

Actually the data from the in situ monitoring project did not influence our decision to raise the grapnel anchor.  The grapnel anchor was loose from the main ballast pile and to avoid further impacts from strong storm currents the decision was made to recover the anchor. A report about our week long field expedition will be posted on our home page soon.

Remember, kids: jacksonkuhl.com — your one-stop source for pirate archaeology news.

Photo from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Rick Allen, Nautilus Productions.

Hoist the Anchor

Marine archaeologists have raised a small anchor from the site believed to be the wreck of Blackbeard’s ship:

Archaeologists and conservators with the state Department of Cultural Resources say the grapnel was at risk of washing away after nearly 300 years in the sea and might not weather possible storms until next year, when a full-scale expedition is planned.

Since last fall, The Queen Anne’s Revenge Shipwreck Project has been using another anchor, still in situ, to measure iron corrosion at the site and thereby draw an overall picture of the stability of the ship’s iron artifacts. Have to wonder if measurements from that experiment influenced the archaeologists’ decision to raise the grapnel now.

I can’t wait to read about what they find next season. Screw Ardi; for my money, this is the biggest thing to hit archaeology since Whydah was found.

Also: If you’re in or around Raleigh, don’t miss the Knights of the Black Flag exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History. Looks terrific.